Amsterdam Tourist Attractions
Top Tourist Attractions in Amsterdam
Amsterdam lies in the province of Noord-Holland at the junction of the Amstel with the IJ, an arm of the IJsselmeer. Including its 10 outer suburbs, Amsterdam has a population of over a million, forming the largest conurbation in what is known as "Randstad Holland". Amsterdam is capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but is neither the permanent royal residence nor the seat of government, both of which are in The Hague.
With its City University, its Free University (a Reformed Church foundation), the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences and numerous other research institutes and academies of music, over 40 museums and the world-famous Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam is the country's leading cultural center. The houses of the old town, which is laid out in a pattern of concentric segments in the shape of a fan, are built on piles driven through an upper layer of mud and bogland into the firm sandy bottom up to 18m/60ft below the surface. Within an area of some 800 hectares/2,000 acres are crowded some 6750 buildings dating from the 16th-18th centuries. In the 160 canals (grachten), which are about 2m/6-1/2ft deep, are more than 2,400 houseboats. The 1281 bridges linking the 90 islands give the town an attractive and often very picturesque aspect. Eight of the bridges are wooden bascule bridges; the most famous of these is the Magere Brug. Around the oldest part of the town are a series of 16th and 17th century extensions, reaching out to the Singelgracht. The most influential architects of this period were Hendrick de Keyser, Jacob van Campen and Philip Vingboons. From 1870 onwards new districts began to develop beyond the Singelgracht, many of them designed by P. J. H. Cuypers. Throughout the 20th century the city has continued to expand, a major influence during the early part of the century being H. P. Berlage, founder of the Amsterdam school of architecture. Among Amsterdam's other attractions are five windmills, nine carillons and 42 historic organs.Amsterdam is the focal point and cornerstone of the Dutch economy, thanks mainly to its importance as a commercial center and the country's second largest port. The Dutch capital market (including the Bank of the Netherlands and other financial institutions) and the main Dutch shipping lines are based in the city; and although the port falls far behind Rotterdam, it is still an important transshipment and storage point for oil, mineral ores and grain, and to a lesser extent for coal, general cargo, oil-seed and animal feed. Apart from the services sector of the economy, industry also plays an important role, for Amsterdam lies in the center of a huge industrial zone which extends from IJmuiden, at the outflow of the North Sea Canal into the sea, and Hilversum, southeast of Amsterdam. Of particular importance is the industry which has developed in the area of the port since the Second World War, stimulated by a gigantic petrochemical and chemical complex which is supplied with much of its oil by a pipeline from the oil port of Rotterdam. Other important branches of industry are shipbuilding, steelworks, engineering, car manufacture, aircraft construction and textiles. Finally there is the city's very specialized industry of diamond-cutting, which came to Amsterdam after the occupation of Antwerp by the Spaniards in 1576. Amsterdam has developed into a major tourist center only since the 1950s. It is now visited by almost 1.5million foreign tourists annually, with a total of 3million overnight stays. In addition some 7million visitors come on day trips. Accommodation for visitors is provided by some 270 hotels, with 20,000 beds, and six camping sites, and their varying interests and needs are catered for by 42 museums, 52 theaters, 40 cinemas and 36 discos, as well as by more than 1400 cafes, 574 coffee shops and 755 restaurants.Amsterdam was originally a fishing village at the outflow of the Amstel into the IJ, an inlet on the Zuiderzee, which was then open to the sea. A dike was built here in 1270; then in 1275 the village received customs privileges from Count Floris V which granted the inhabitants the right of free passage and free trade in their own goods within the County of Holland. It received its municipal charter in 1300. In 1317 Count William III took over control of the town from the Bishop of Utrecht. During the Middle Ages it enjoyed a period of prosperity. This led to busy trading activity, which developed still further when the town became a member of the Hanseatic League in 1368. Following the so-called "miracle of the Host" the town also became a place of pilgrimage; and when the future Emperor Maximilian I was cured of illness during a pilgrimage in 1489 he granted the town the right to include his crown in its coat of arms. Amsterdam was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1421, but it was rapidly rebuilt. in 1481 it was surrounded by new stone walls. By 1538 the population had risen to over 30,000. The town's real heyday began with the struggle for independence. In 1566 its churches and religious houses were stormed by supporters of the Reformation, but the Protestants suffered bloody persecution when the Duke of Alba's forces occupied the town in the following year. At the beginning of the rebellion by the northern provinces Amsterdam was pro-Spanish, but after surrendering to William of Orange it joined in the fight for independence from Spain, in which it played a successful part. As a result of the devastation of Ghent and the decline of Antwerp many merchants, manufacturers and artists moved north from the Spanish Netherlands. Amsterdam now developed into one of the world's leading commercial towns, a center of learning and culture and a city with flourishing industries and a cosmopolitan population. The "Satisfactie van Amsterdam" laid down that no one should be persecuted for his faith, and thereafter victims of persecution from all over Europe flocked to the city - people from the Spanish-occupied southern Netherlands, craftsmen from Germany driven out by the Thirty Years' War, Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal, Huguenots from France, Protestant refugees from England. Within a period of 10 years or so the population doubled in size. After a fleet mainly chartered by Amsterdam merchants discovered the sea route to India round Africa in 1597 the United East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie), in which Amsterdam merchants were the leading shareholders, was established in 1602. In 1611 the Commodity Exchange and Stock Exchange were founded. In 1613, during the fourth extension of the city, the triple ring of canals (Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht) was constructed, and the working-class district of Jordaan grew up to the west. By 1620 the population had risen to 100,000, and Amsterdam had become Europe's leading commercial city. In the mid 17th century Rembrandt, Bol, Flinck and Ruisdael were active in Amsterdam. The city attached importance to its ability to defend itself, and all male citizens between the ages of 18 and 60 were under an obligation to take part in the defense of the city if necessary and were enlisted in the town guard. One unit of the guard, commanded by Captain Frans Banning Cocq, had themselves painted by Rembrandt in 1642 in the famous "Night Watch". Between 1780 and 1784, as a result of Dutch participation in the War of American Independence, Amsterdam lost much of its fleet, and thus also lost its maritime predominance; and as a result of its union with France (1795) and the continental blockade (1806-13) during the Napoleonic period its trade was completely destroyed. After the French period the city sought to recover its former commercial importance. The construction of the North Holland Canal (1819-25), which was intended to obviate the difficult approach to the city through the Zuiderzee, did not have the expected effect. Amsterdam began to recover its prosperity only after the building of the North Sea Canal in 1875 and the Merwede Canal linking the two arms of the Rhine, the Waal and the Lek, in 1892. The first railroad line in the Netherlands, between Amsterdam and Haarlem, was opened in 1839.In a local government election in 1913 the Social Democrats won a majority on the city council, and since then Amsterdam has continued to be a center of democratic socialism. Amsterdam was occupied by German forces in May 1940, and soon afterwards the first anti-Jewish measures were introduced. On February 25, 1941, in the "February Strike", workers protested against the deportation of Jews from the city. Although resistance to the German occupation was particularly strong in Amsterdam (underground press, concealment of Jews and other victims of persecution, direct action against the occupying forces), almost the entire Jewish population of the city had been deported by the end of the war. In spite of the armistice agreed on May 5, 1945 there was further bloody fighting on May 7, ended on the following day by the intervention of Canadian forces. The conduct of the city's population during the war led Queen Wilhelmina in 1984 to add the words "heldhaftig, vastberaden, barmhartig" ("heroic, resolute, compassionate") to its coat of arms. After the war a period of reconstruction began. In 1952, with the opening of the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal, the link with the river Waal was improved and Amsterdam was able to assert its position as the country's second largest seaport and inland port. The marriage of Princess Beatrix with a German, Claus von Amberg, on March 10, 1966 was the occasion of violent demonstrations in the city, which resulted in the dismissal of the burgomaster and the chief of police. The celebration of the city's 700th anniversary in 1875 led to further clashes in the Nieuwmarkt district between the police and demonstrators protesting against the demolition of houses during the construction of the city's Metro (underground) system. In 1979 more than 60,000 people were registered as wanting accommodation in Amsterdam, and empty houses were occupied by squatters (krakers). On April 30 in that year Queen Juliana abdicated and the new queen, Beatrix, took the oath to uphold the constitution in the Nieuwe Kerk. Outside the well protected security zone round the palace and the church there was violent rioting, directed not so much against the queen as against the city's acute housing shortage. A year later a law was passed requiring all empty houses to be registered. Squatting was prohibited, but nevertheless continued. As decided at the "EC Summit" in 1983, Amsterdam was designated the "Cultural Capital of Europe" in 1987. Amsterdam's new Town Hall was occupied in 1988, and - together with the Muziktheater (opened in 1986) - forms what is referred to as the Stopera (Stadhuis/Opera). In 1992 an Israeli aircraft crashed on apartments in Amsterdam, killing more than 200 people.
Nearly everyone goes on a canal trip when they're in Amsterdam - there are numerous glass- topped boats taking visitors through the canals and out onto the Amstel and round the harbor. It's also quite an experience to do the tour at night, especially the candlelit version, on a boat lit by candles included in the price. The tours depart every hour during the summer, and at longer intervals in winter. They last between an hour and half a day, and the commentary is in four languages. Tours can be booked in the Amsterdam VVV tourist information centers, or with the operators direct.
The Dutch National Museum in Amsterdam contains over 7 million pieces of art, with an extensive collection of Dutch art. The neo-Gothic building which houses the museum was built in the 1880s.
A permanent exhibition on aviation, the National Aeronautics and Space Travel Museum (Avidrome) is one of the world's first modern aviation museums.Notable attractions include the world's first motorized aircraft, antique Fokkers, a Spitfire and a Hunter fighter jet.The collection, which is under a geodesic dome, includes a wide range of aircraft used by Dutch organizations.It has one of the finest collections of scale models of aircraft developed in The Netherlands and there are also excellent collections of flying clothing and aero engines.
Address: Pelikaanweg 50, Lelystad, Noord-Holland 8218 PG, Netherlands
Opening hours: 10am-5pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26)
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €14.90, Senior over 65 €13.90, Child 4-12 €12.90, Group discounts €12.90
Transit: Subway under Airport. Bus. Train.
Typical Visit: 1 hour 30 minutes
There are a great many antique shops centered around the Nieuwe Spiegstraat, Spiegelgracht, Rokin and Elandsgracht. Prices for top items are no cheaper here than in the other big European cities.
The Beurs van Berlage is one of the most important architectural monuments of its kind. There are drawings and mock-ups of the building as well as documents about it on display.
Address: Damrak 277, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland 1012 ZJ, Netherlands
Opening hours: 11am-5pm; Closed: Mon
Entrance fee: FREE
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Facilities: Restaurant or food service
The Foundation for Photography in Huis Marseille conatins a collection which spans the twentieth century. The main emphasis is on contemporary work by photographers involved in the visual arts.
Address: Keizersgracht 401, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland 1016 EK, Netherlands
Opening hours: 11am-5pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Dutch National Day (Apr 30), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €3.00, Students €1.50, Senior €1.50, Child 12 & under FREE
The Amsterdam Metro's three lines cover 40 km of which 3.5 km are in tunnel and 24 km are elevated. Perhaps most noteworthy is the stop directly under Schiphol airport which makes it quite easy for travelers to get downtown.
Address: Prins Hendrikkade 108-114, Postbox 2131, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland 1000 CC, Netherlands
The Zeiss Planetarium in Amsterdam features a Zeiss IV-B which was installed in 1988. Its dome measures 20 m.
Address: Artis Plantage Kerklaan 38-40, Box 20164, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland 1000 HD, Netherlands
Opening hours: 12:30pm-5:30pm; Sun: 9:30am-5:30pm; Sat: 9:30am-5:30pm; Closed: Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri
Guides: Interpretive sessions sometimes available.
Facilities: Gift shop
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Map of Amsterdam Attractions